Updated: NYT Raises E-Edition Rates By 33 Percent But, Hey, First iPad App Free

Subscribers to the New York Times E-Edition, an exact digital replica of the print version, got word today that rates are being hiked to $19.99 a month — a 33.4 percent increase from $14.99. That’s the same price the New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) flagship is charging for the Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) eNewspaper version and could well be set to match the paper plans to charge when it launches its promised paid iPad app. That makes the NYT on Kindle a bargain at $13.99. Could it be headed for a price increase, too? [Update: And, yes, Kindle NYT subscribers (I am one) got notice Friday night that the price is being hiked now to $19.99 for new subs and staying at current rates until Oct. 2 for existing subs. No explanation.]

The increase is effective today for new subscriptions but doesn’t kick into effect for current subscribers until October 1. The $19.99 ($239 a year) is for seven days a week; it’s $14.99 (nearly $180 a year) a month for Monday-Friday. By comparison, an NYC metro print sub runs $11.70 a week for seven days — 50 percent less for 12 weeks if the sub sets up automated credit card billing. That’s about $46 a month or $608 a year so the e-versions work out to a substantial discount from full-freight print and a slight discount from the half-price offer. Home delivery rates are higher outside New York.

iPad debut, plans: Meanwhile, the NYT first news iPad hit the iTunes store today, the free NYT Editors Choice with a limited selection of automatically updated news, features, videos, etc. laid out with a newspapery feel and offline reading capability; it’s sponsored exclusively at launch by Chase Sapphire. The paper’s announcement includes a promise that a “full, paid” app is on the way.